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Pumas get exciting last minute win against Toluca

Pumas defeated Toluca 2-1 after getting tied in extra time only to get a winning goal a minute later.

Pumas sing the University’s anthem before their match against Toluca.
Rafael Hernandez

Pumas got a dramatic win in the final minutes after a dominating second half but getting tied in the 91st minute. The 2-1 win against Toluca at home got Pumas their fourth win and right back into the fight before the FIFA break. Pumas and Toluca played a very even match in the first half, but Toluca deflated in the second half and Pumas should have finished the game after getting the 1-0. They failed to do so, and heartbreak for Pumas and the fans looked imminent when Toluca tied the game in an unjust matter. Yet on the head of youngster Bryan Mendoza, Pumas was able to thrill their fans with the most exiting victory of the season for them. Pumas will now wait to face their biggest rival America after going to Philadelphia for a friendly against the Philadelphia Union of Major League Soccer during the FIFA break, while Toluca will have a chance to bounce back when they play Morelia at home.

The first half started and it was Toluca who almost struck first when Fernando Tobio got a free header off a free kick that Alfredo Saldivar stopped, but it was ruled offside. Pumas tried to answer, and fans clamored for a penalty when Carlos Gonzalez looked to have been dropped in the area but the ref waived it off. It looked like Pumas had taken the lead a couple of minutes later when Gonzalez got a shot that Toluca’s keeper Alfredo Talavera couldn’t handle. Ignacio Malcorra got to the rebound and scored, but he was (correctly) ruled offside and the goal was called off. Toluca kept pressuring Pumas defenders up top and Pumas kept losing balls because of it. It was in one of those plays when Toluca got their best chance after Andres Iniestra lost the ball to Emmanuel Gigliotti, who took a rifle of a shot that Saldivar has to deflect right into the left post. Minutes later it was Pumas who would have their best chance when Pablo Barrera made a great run and a good cross to Gonzalez, but he wasted the chance with a bad header. Later on it was Malcorra who got a free header in the area but his went wide. With the heat and altitude and with both teams being very evenly matched, the game turned into a stalemate with neither team creating much danger on the offense. Then Toluca had a great chance when Felipe Pardo found a wide open Diego Rigonato, who was alone in the area and could have gotten a one on one against Saldivar, but he incredibly wasted the chance by trying to lob it to Gigliotti and it going wide. It was a totally baffling decision, as he was wide open and Gigliotti was coming from behind the ball and would have never arrived to whatever cross Rigonato had made. Toluca almost got a chance when Alan Mozo had trouble getting to a cross by Pardo and came close to scoring and own goal. Pardo had another good chance, but his shot was blocked. Just as Toluca looked to have the better finish to the first half, Barrera got the ball in the area but his left footed shot went wide, in what turned out to be the final play of the first half.

The second half started and Pumas started attacking from the get go with Barrera getting a good pass, but he wasn’t able to get to the ball in what could’ve been a good opportunity. Pumas had another good opportunity when Talavera had to get a cross almost from Bryan Mendoza’s head. Finally after a great combination play, Pumas was able to open the scoring. After a great combination play in which Juan Pablo Vigon found Gonzalez in the area, Gonzalez got off a powerful shot that went past Talavera for the 1-0. Pumas had a deserved lead because while the first half had been even, Pumas was the better team in the second half. Pumas had another great chance when Malcorra got a ball in the area and got off a left footed shot that Talavera had to dive to stop the ball from going in. Controversy occurred when a shot by Barrera got deflected by a Toluca defender into the hand of Toluca defender Luis Hernandez. The ref went to the VAR and didn’t give a PK, to the jeers of the home crowd. While Pumas slowed down, Toluca really didn’t pressure for the tying goal. Pumas came close again when Talavera had to go and take the ball away from Bryan Mendoza’s feet in the area. While Toluca looked lost, Pumas couldn’t put the game away and they looked to be playing with fire in not going for the kill and holding on to their one goal lead. It almost cost them dearly when in the first minute of extra time, Toluca got a cross into the area for Emmanuel Gigliotti to head it in and tie the game at 1-1. Toluca, who had played a terribly poor second half, were on the verge of getting the point and stunning the home crowd. A minute later though, Pumas would go into heroics and get the three points. Alan Mozo got a cross to Gonzalez, who couldn’t get to the ball well before Talavera was able to clear it to Malcorra. Malcorra’s cross got blocked and it was then headed to the area, where Bryan Mendoza was left alone to get to the ball into the net and give Pumas the win. The 21 year old was playing in only his second Liga MX game of the season and he scored his first goal in an exciting finish that made the crowd go wild. Pumas thus had to leave it to the heroic finish but was able to get the just result.

While Pumas didn’t give their best performance, the win was deserved and the heroics in the end can be a good boost for the team. The crowd, that hasn’t been happy with their season so far, got an emotional kick from the heroic win and Pumas will go to the FIFA date break on a high. More importantly the breakthrough performance from Bryan Mendoza might mean that a new youngster can liven up the team offensively like others have done before. Still, Pumas almost got tied at home by a Toluca that was dreadful in the second half and they will have a tough schedule in their return when they face their city rivals, America and Cruz Azul in back to back games. Toluca’s struggles continue meanwhile and Coach Ricardo Lavolpe will feel the heat not only because of the supposed quality of the squad but because of the terrible play at times from the team, especially in the second half of this game.